Public perceptions – University of Copenhagen

Painful dilemmas: A study of the way the public’s assessment of animal research balances costs to animals against human benefits

By T.B. Lund, M.R. Mørkbak, J. Lassen & P. Sandøe (2013)
Public Understanding of Science
. Sage Journals.


The conflict between animal costs and human benefits has dominated public as well as academic debates about animal research. However, surveys of public perceptions of animal research rarely focus on this part of attitude formation. This paper traces the prevalence of different attitudes to animal research in the public when people are asked to take benefit and cost considerations into account concurrently. Results from the examination of two representative samples of the Danish public identify three reproducible attitude stances. Approximately 30–35% of people questioned approved of animal research quite strongly, and 15–20% opposed animal research. The remaining 50% were reserved in their views. Further studies will ideally use the measure developed here; and if they do so, relatively fine-grained comparisons and understandings of differences between populations and changes in attitudes over time, will become possible.

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Public attitude formation regarding animal research

T.B. Lund, J. Lassen & P. Sandøe (2012) 
RoutledgeTaylor & Francis Group.

A number of attitudinal studies have examined support for the use of animals in research. However, on the whole they have come to rather different conclusions. In our research, which is based on focus group discussions held in Denmark, we attempted to explain this variation by examining the way the relevant attitudes are formed. Although our participants had only limited knowledge of, and interest in, animal use in research, they were perfectly capable of developing reasoned attitudes to it by drawing on evaluative considerations concerning animal use in general. Furthermore, the evaluation of animal research involves a distinct experience of value conflict - between the possible human benefits, on the one hand, and a concern for costs to the animal, on the other. Different ways of dealing with this conflict gives rise ti different attitudinal stances on animal research: Disapprovers, Reserved, and Approvers. These stances, and their supporting lines of argument, are rather robust, as they are grounded in stable underlying values. However, at the same time they leave room for variable evaluations of different types of animal experiment. This facilitates shifts between approval and disapproval, especially for the Reserved who experience ambivalence. Future quantitative analyses should take into consideration that attitudes in the field of animal experimentation can be viewed (and measured) both at an underlying value-based level and at a context-specific level.

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